The Back Room

With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.

My previous posting touched on the recent dilemma I had in selecting what to bring to my new apartment and what to discard.  The question is, what did I believe I would need or want over the next year?

The hardest decisions were made on the bookshelf.  I have many books not yet read but will read over the next year (hopefully).  The tougher choices are the books I have read and would like close by.

A lot of my screenplays, biographies and fiction books were decimated.

It was an arduous but thoughtful process.  What was a purposeful item and what was merely a possession?  I wasn’t interested in holding onto a book I had read that I had no intention of reading again, much in the way we come across items in our life that we do not use but for some reason continue to keep “just in case”.

Possessions weigh me down.  To have something for the sake of having it and not doing anything productive with it no longer makes any sense and I have no problem discarding.

I enjoyed reading the biographies of Meyer Lansky and David O Selznick but I will not read them again and have never recommended them to anyone.   Discard.

Some modern fiction I read was merely a curiosity purchase and now being unsatisfied with the result I don’t have a need for them in my life.  Goodbye  This Is Where I Leave You, Love Begins In Winter, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (although it won prestigious awards, I am less than impressed with Junot Diaz’s work.  His short stories keep appearing in The New Yorker and that too is inexplicable to me.  He has fairly unlikable characters, no strong narrative flow and the dialogue is too one-note and sitcom-like, more tailored for a teenage audience.)

Authors like Eugenides, Chabon, Welty, Leonard, Kingsolver, Lahiri, Shteyngart, Self, Schulman, West, Bolano, Coetzee, Pamuk and Price… can write with depth and clarity and are deserving of my bookshelf.

My monologists and essayists are always welcome: Gray, Bogosian, Leguizamo, Sedaris, West, Thurber, Baldwin, Walker, Vowell, Twain, Rakoff, Wallace, Als, Heschel , Kierkegaard and Sartre.

And future inspiration for a play of my own can be found with Parks, Butterworth,Checkov, Mamet, Albee, Williams, Pinter, McPherson, Pirandello, Rattigan, Nottage, Shakespeare and McDonough.

It’s these books I can use and return to for musing and delight.

So many books I loved did not make the cut because of the limitations in their readability.  The paperbacks were too small and the writing was so tiny.  I would never read that book again in that condition.  They are on a special list of books to buy when I can find a better edition at a fair price.  Books like Sister Carrie, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Get Shorty, Dead Souls, The Hunt for Red October, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Heart of Darkness

I like streamlining what I own into usefulness.  I also did this for my movies, music and clothes.  Music I listened to and said, “I only like a few songs really so I’ll just rip them to my computer and get rid of the CD.”

Ani difranco, in her song “Fuel”, talked about what a record used to be, what it signified, how it was a record of an event and should be taken as a whole.  And there are still many artists who believe in the entirety of an album.  One of the best ways to see who puts thought into their craft or who is perpetuating a mass marketing machine is to see the popular charts and who is on the radio.

Most terrestrial radio stations play the same songs over and over and the album is marketed based on the success of these songs.

That is most popular music.

To my ears, it is harder to get a true band following unless the whole album is sincere in its mission.  Off the top of my head there’s Ryan Adams, Prince, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Emmylou Harris, Spoon, Radiohead, Janelle Monae… artists playing with the same sincerity as classic artists like Zeppelin, Who, Stones, Floyd, Cream, Talking Heads, Roxy Music…

The investment is greater but so is the payoff.

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